Second Class Love

April 28, 2018

Bowmanites, here’s my contribution to the current newsletter …

Our hope of salvation stems from the truth that Jesus died on the cross for our sins. Believers have heard the “not guilty” verdict of Judgment Day. This is precious truth to us. We cling to this promise. It gives us hope in spite of our ongoing propensity to sin.

As important as the truth of justification by grace through faith is, it isn’t the essence of the Christian life. Justification opens the door to relationship with God. The separation between God and believers has been removed. The Christian life is about relationship with God.

We might be tempted to think that this relationship with God is primarily about obeying the law of God. And, obviously, a Christian will be passionate about obedience. Yet, obedience isn’t the essence of the Christian life. We obey because we realize that disobedience is like carrying fire next to one’s chest (Pr 6:27). It is antithetical to life. Believers realize that there is never an upside to sin. 

If we see that the Christian life is primarily about obedience, we are missing the warp and woof, the very essence, of the Christian life. The Christian life is relationship with God. We know God. Paul writes in Gal. 4:8-9, “Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God …” At one time believers did not know God. No one is born in relationship with God. We come to know him as we hear the gospel and God raises us from the dead, (1Pe. 1:23, Ja. 1:18) so that now we know God.

What does relationship with God look like? What does relationship with your dear spouse, your children, and your friends look like? Love. You would literally and/or figuratively give your life so that these dear ones might thrive. What does relationship with God look like? Love. Mk. 12:29-30 says, “Jesus answered, ‘The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ ‘ ” Here Jesus is quoting from the book of Deuteronomy. This to say that the idea of loving God is an oft repeated command in Scripture. And, it is most important.

So, while believers emphasize justification by faith, this is simply the door that gets us into the throne room of God. Once in the door the real fun begins. We have loving relationship with the most beautiful, glorious, wise, powerful, holy, pure, loving being there is. Some of you might be thinking “amen” as you read this, but there is a hesitation in your spirit. It is because you know yourself, and what lurks in your spirit isn’t unrestrained, exuberant love for God. Rather, you track with the Laodiceans in that you detect lukewarmness in the deep recesses of your soul.

I believe there are only two places in scripture where people in essence say, “I love you, Lord” (Ps. 18:1; 116:1). I know of one high-end Hebrew scholar who believes that these lines are mistranslated. Even if he were wrong, very few people in the Bible have the guts to say, “I love you, Lord.” You probably remember the dialogue Jesus had with Peter in John 21 after his denials. Jesus asked Peter if he loved (agapao) him. Jesus used the Greek word agapao, a word used to describe divine love. Peter knowing his “lukewarmness” said that he did phileo Jesus. Phileo speaks more of a family love, not a divine love. Peter peered into his cold soul, and knew he couldn’t use the word agapao. Jesus used the word agapao two times, and both times Peter responded with the word phileo. Finally, the third time Jesus used the word phileo too. Again Peter said he did phileo Jesus. Then Jesus told Peter about his death. I think this knowledge about his death would have been an encouragement to Peter. He knew he would follow Jesus to the end of his life, and die a martyr’s death thus affirming his salvation. Agapao was the goal but Phileo was enough.

The essence of the Christian life is a loving relationship with God. Yet, we don’t do this well. Knowing the deadliness of lukewarmness, we beg God for more love for him. Even this lukewarmness is forgiven. Blessedly, we’re not saved by our love for God, but rather by his love for us. This unrequited love for us moves us to love him more deeply. We love because he first loved us.

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2 Responses to “Second Class Love”

  1. tjkids Says:

    “Blessedly, we’re not saved by our love for God, but rather by his love for us. This unrequited love for us moves us to love him more deeply. We love because he first loved us.”

    So very grateful for this truth!


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